Burnout Recovery

S020 Cait Donovan on ACEs, burnout prevention and recovery

June 22, 2023 Dex Randall, Cait Donovan
S020 Cait Donovan on ACEs, burnout prevention and recovery
Burnout Recovery
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Burnout Recovery
S020 Cait Donovan on ACEs, burnout prevention and recovery
Jun 22, 2023
Dex Randall, Cait Donovan

Send us a Text Message.

Cait Donovan has just written a paper on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and burnout, so we talk here about that and her extensive experience as a Burnout Coach. Cait also shares her methods of burnout recovery - what she sees working, what she  doesn't and how she views burnout recovery from both a medical and Chinese medicine perspective.

Show Notes:

----------------------------------- Burnout Resources:
Get 1-on-1 burnout recovery coaching at https:/mini.dexrandall.com
Burnout Recovery eCourse: https://go.dexrandall.com/beatburnout
For even more TIPS see
FACEBOOK: @coachdexrandall
INSTAGRAM: @coachdexrandall
LINKEDIN: @coachdexrandall
TWITTER: @coachdexrandall
or join the FACEBOOK group for burnout coaches only

See https://linktr.ee/coachdexrandall for all links

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Cait Donovan has just written a paper on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and burnout, so we talk here about that and her extensive experience as a Burnout Coach. Cait also shares her methods of burnout recovery - what she sees working, what she  doesn't and how she views burnout recovery from both a medical and Chinese medicine perspective.

Show Notes:

----------------------------------- Burnout Resources:
Get 1-on-1 burnout recovery coaching at https:/mini.dexrandall.com
Burnout Recovery eCourse: https://go.dexrandall.com/beatburnout
For even more TIPS see
FACEBOOK: @coachdexrandall
INSTAGRAM: @coachdexrandall
LINKEDIN: @coachdexrandall
TWITTER: @coachdexrandall
or join the FACEBOOK group for burnout coaches only

See https://linktr.ee/coachdexrandall for all links

0:00:09.4 Dex: Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work.

0:00:23.5 Dex: Hello my friends, this is Dex, and today I am very excited to welcome a much anticipated special guest, Cait Donovan, onto the podcast. And Cait is a keynote speaker, host of FRIED: The Burnout Podcast, author of The Bouncebackability Factor, which is a book about burnout which I actually very much liked and would recommend. And also she's an acupuncturist with a Master's degree in Chinese Medicine. And Cait's unique burnout recovery solutions have been featured on podcasts and online magazines all over the place, including Forbes, NPR, the New York Post and in companies such as Lululemon and PepsiCo. And ever since the day when I heard somebody, a comedian, called that out Lululemon, I have difficulty pronouncing it the correct way. [laughter] Anyway, hello, Cait. Welcome. How are you today? 

0:01:16.2 Cait: Dex, I'm fabulous. I'm so excited to be here with you today. Thank you for having me.

0:01:21.1 Dex: Such a pleasure and as you know, a really big fan of your pioneering work. We've had quite a few conversations about that. And I also really super love the way that you so generously build community among other burnout professionals particularly. And I've met a lot of great people through you and your list of other coaches like Sally Clark and Duncan. So both of whom I have guested on this podcast recently a really quite marvellous human being. So thank you for that.

0:01:51.8 Cait: This is such an important thing to me as a medical practitioner first. We live on referring to one another. That's because everybody's got a specialty. Everybody's a little bit better at something else. We start doing that even when we're in school because somebody starts saying, "I'm really going to do orthopaedics," and somebody comes in and says they have shoulder pain and you say, "Well, go see Josh." And so it's such a natural part. And I started getting calls from people that I was like, "I'm not the right fit for this person, but I need someone for them." I didn't know where to turn. So it was a very selfish thing on my part to create a list of people that I could rely on.

0:02:34.8 Dex: Well, you say selfish. I'm not really detecting that myself, but I get you about the referrals and I do a lot of referring to other people as well in various different disciplines. So I get that. And actually what you inspired me to do was to start my own burnout coaching Facebook group where I'm gathering together other burnout coachings who are in different niches. I've got 200 or so people in there now.

0:02:58.7 Cait: That's amazing.

0:03:00.3 Dex: And we do some teaching and sharing and cross-promotion and stuff like that, which I really have taken a leaf out of your book and I really, really love meeting these and those people.

0:03:08.3 Cait: I love that. That is just a magical thing.

0:03:13.1 Dex: Anyhow, let's start here today. I've got some really urgent and urging questions burning in my brain for you. [chuckle] So, because I've been following your stuff for a little while, but I was listening to you over the weekend on Jim Young's podcast about intimacy and male intimacy, that's his area of work. And you said, I hope I'm quoting you correctly here, that burnout prevention is stress management, but burnout recovery is reconnection. They're two different beasts. And I'm not completely sure. And you talked about arriving at that kind of conclusion because of your way of working as an acupuncturist, where prevention and cure aren't the same things. Just tell our listeners a tiny bit about that, if you would.

0:03:58.8 Cait: When you are already burnt out, the techniques that you would have used for prevention are designed to help you manage stress, which is a wonderful thing and a good thing. However, the stress has already overtaken you when you're in burnout, so those same techniques are not quite as useful. And the reason that they're not as useful is because your physiology is different right now. Your brain is different, your body is different, and your gut microbiome is different. Your muscles are not getting the same level of blood flow that they were getting before. Everything is different in this new space. So it doesn't make sense that we should try to treat it the same way. When I say that I think burnout recovery is about connection, the first connection I think is about this reconnection to yourself, because burnout recovery... Burning out in the first place is a lot of disconnect. There's a lot of not understanding your own body signals, not listening to your own body signals, and pushing through things when you kind of have an inkling that maybe you shouldn't. There's a lot of, what I honed in on a couple of years back at a conference that I was at was really underneath, it all is a lot of self-neglect when you're in burnout. So you have to reconnect to yourself first in order to be able to connect with other people.

0:05:37.9 Cait: Before you burn out, you're really unlikely to know that you're on the path unless you've already been there. So I have a bit of a fight with burnout prevention. I think it's a good idea for companies to focus on adjusting things that they can do within their company to make things more burnout-proof on a societal scale, on a company scale. But as an individual, you probably have no idea that it's happening, so I don't feel like focusing on burnout prevention on an individual level, unless you've already burnt out and are trying to avoid a relapse, is really useful.

0:06:22.7 Dex: I hear you. Yeah. And that logic makes sense to me. I have a slightly different perspective. A lot of people who come to me aren't quite sure if they're in burnout or not. And we go through the symptoms and the experiences and the feelings of that, and they're like, "Oh yeah, I am." But then there are other people who kind of know they've been burning out for a long time, which is my story. I kind of knew I was burning out for quite a few years before I crashed and put my hand up. And so from that perspective, I think of people getting into burnout as being, they have coping mechanisms consistent with being a type A personality. When you play those out enough, you'll probably crash at the end. So because they've had those, they've been creating those circumstances for years, then I feel that I can help them in the prevention phase as well. Some people are only just in burnout, and you can help them going right down the hole and to home. So I get you, but I've got slightly a different perspective.

0:07:21.5 Cait: I think if people are already at the point where they're going to be helped by the work that you're doing, they're already in burnout. I don't care if they're one foot in or if they're 10 feet deep in, that does not matter to me. The difference is actually physiological. So if you are in burnout, your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that sits behind your forehead, right? That is smaller. Your amygdala is larger. There are actual physiological things happening to you that are different from when you're in another state. So this to me, I think, I said this on Jim's podcast as well, to me this is sort of like talking about cancer prevention. While I like to believe I live a healthy life, I'm not actively preventing cancer in my life right now, because I haven't had cancer yet that I know of.

0:08:08.2 Cait: And so that's not the focus of my health and wellbeing. And even if I did try to prevent it, even if I was living a life that was solely focused on lifestyle changes to prevent cancer, if I was supposed to get cancer, I might get it anyway. So the statistics are that, of the people that get cancer, 33% of people, the cancers could have been prevented by lifestyle changes. Only 33%. That means that 67% of people are getting cancer anyway. So I don't know what those percentages are for burnout because we don't have those kinds of statistics. We don't have that kind of information. But I would venture to say that those of us that have the kind of tendencies that we have, a lot of the lifestyle changes that we would make would also be stressful, [laughter] because that's how we function, right? So I think that adding the burden of burnout prevention to a type A personality would just end up burning them out anyway because they're not gonna go through unwinding all of the stuff that we have to unwind to get well unless they really have to because it sucks because it's hard. Does that make sense? 

0:09:26.0 Dex: Yeah, yeah. It makes sense. It's so interesting 'cause every single person I talk to who works with burnout has a different perspective.

0:09:33.4 Cait: Yeah.

0:09:34.4 Dex: And it's always very eye-opening to talk to each individual, I'm like, "Oh, well, that's another way of seeing it, that's another way of seeing it." It's the same phenomenon, but we're coming at it I think from different angles. And you yourself obviously have a long career in acupuncture before you came to burnout. So that would've informed how you come at all of these things.

0:09:54.0 Cait: Yeah, of course. Of course. And I think the other part of the Chinese medicine piece is that there's a lot of people out there that want to have a singular cause, or what people like to call a root cause or name the six workplace factors that have been popularised and researched by Christina Maslach and et al, [chuckle] and the other researchers she works with, as the causes. And Chinese medicine doesn't really work like that, it's much more of a big-picture view. So I also hold this sort of big-picture view, like maybe if you were working on burnout prevention and you started meditating, that would prevent it for a longer period of time. But if you still have 9 or 10 other coping mechanisms that are maladaptive, it's not gonna win over all of them long term. You know? So I think that there's this sort of like see-saw effect and we have to really take a step back and look at everything, look at the person's whole life journey, and not just, "What have you been doing for the past six months?"

0:10:57.5 Dex: Yes, I completely agree with all of that. I still have a different perspective on it, but I agree with you. And I think my... Probably my current biggest influence in all of this is Gabor Maté, the Myth of Normal, it really goes through a lot of the antecedents to the mental and physical and addictive coping mechanisms and experiences that we have in a way that made so much sense for and to me. I was like, "Oh, all the ducks come in a row then."

0:11:26.0 Cait: Yes. I've been reading his work since, I wanna say my second or third year of school. So we're looking at maybe 2010, 2011. And his work has touched me that way throughout. And I think that sometimes he has a tendency to make sweeping statements, that he believes fully because he has a lifetime of believing these things to be true, so he believes them fully and makes sweeping statements that might be a little bit too broad for some people. He tends to dismiss... In The Myth of Normal, he does a lot of dismissals of the genetic components of things. And he says all the time, "I believe in it. I believe in it, but. I believe in it, but. I believe in it, but." And so there's a lot of dismissal about the sort of underlying biology. And I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a believer that genetics determines all. I am in Gabor Maté's side. I do believe that adverse childhood experiences create a lot of trauma, I do believe that maladaptive coping mechanisms that we create as children take us through life and end up in burnout, I believe all of those things. And I still believe that there's a place for just the pure biology of a being. And I think that this is... Going back again to this maintaining this holistic view. I don't want to throw any pieces away completely. I want to be sure that I'm keeping all the pieces on a middle road, on a middle path kind of thing. I don't know if that makes sense.

0:13:17.0 Dex: Yes, it does. And I think he does generalize and I think he's doing it so that the lay audience can make something about his work, which otherwise would be probably a little bit too scientific...

0:13:27.7 Cait: I agree.

0:13:28.6 Dex: Touch for some people.

0:13:29.7 Cait: I agree with that, yeah.

0:13:31.1 Dex: Yeah. I can't really imagine what it would be like to come from your background. I myself have been trained in some of the energetic arts and the Chinese medicine system and the acupuncture points and all of that. But I still, I don't have anywhere near the depth of knowledge that you have. So it's pretty interesting to hear where we're the same and where we differ. I think fundamentally we're on the same page there.

0:13:56.5 Cait: I think so too.

0:13:58.3 Dex: And I'm very interested in, as you and I have discussed previously, adverse childhood experiences, ACEs and later burnout, how that informs burnout and also the general intersection of mental health challenges, which could just be about maladaptive coping mechanisms and also burnout. Where are you sitting with all of that right now? I think that's something you're looking at.

0:14:22.7 Cait: So I just, as a final paper, as finishing a degree recently, a final paper that I wrote was on ACEs and how they contribute to burnout. And I had to find 25 resources for this paper. So I read a lot of this and it seems pretty clear to me. They have drawn really clear correlations between poor adult mental health and highly adverse childhood experiences. They have not made a direct correlation between ACEs and burnout. They have made it between ACEs and how you see yourself at work and occupational stress and choosing occupations that are more "helpful". So teachers and firefighters and doctors and nurses typically have higher numbers and more frequent ACEs scores than would a person who didn't choose one of those professions, sometimes by as much as tenfold. So there's this compound... This is why I don't like to throw any of the pieces out because there's these compounding factors, right? So say you have a high number of adverse childhood experiences and that induces a bunch of internalised shame and self-judgment and feelings of guilt and hyper-responsibility.

0:15:51.1 Cait: For instance, sort of speaking about myself here, but for instance, it creates all of those things. And so as you age and you're choosing a profession, you choose a profession out of this sensation, this idea that's called moral repair, that you will go in and give back to the world in the ways that you didn't get things. Like you'll give back the things you didn't get. So you'll go in and you'll help people. So as someone who's choosing to help people, you often, and maybe I won't say you, I'll say I. I went through the process of learning to help people not understanding that I needed to help myself along the way because in my mind, if I focused enough on everybody else, then it wouldn't matter because my value would come from how much I gave to other people and my worth would come from how much I gave to other people and my self-belief and trust would come from what I was able to provide for everyone around me. I thought it would make me whole, not fulfil me, literally make me whole. And when you learn these things, when you're learning all of these little things, going through any sort of medicine, energetic medicine, psychology, whatever it happens to be when you learn these things, in a book, you do both things.

0:17:23.0 Cait: You do this, oh, I have every single one of these problems, right? So I have anxiety, I have depression, I have, I have, I have. Just like every medical student has every single disease that they read through, this is the same, right? So you have all the things, but also you have none of the things because you know how to deal with them. And if you know how to deal with them, then they can't possibly burden you. I thought that intelligence and intellect and wisdom would be a shield, but that intelligence and intellect didn't turn into wisdom, it stayed knowledge. And that was where the burnout bridge happened for me. I got the intellect, I got the knowledge, I read the books, I have the information, but the practice of that information on myself creates wisdom, that wasn't there.

0:18:13.3 Dex: Gosh, you're so articulate on that. I so strongly relate to every single thing you've just said. And I think a lot of us do arrive here like that. And interestingly, I interviewed a therapist last week who has gone from therapy to coaching, a psychotherapist, who was in psychotherapy for a long time practising and actually still is in. And she said to me, "Well, a lot of people were coming... A lot of women were coming to me in with burnout saying, 'Well, I've got generalised anxiety disorder or depression or this or that.'" And she said, "I started to notice I was really, really struggling to find anything in the DSM that applied to them. I was not able to give them a diagnosis and therefore they couldn't come to me for treatment, so I've switched to coaching," which I find really kind of stunning.

0:19:01.5 Cait: Yeah. Burnout currently in the medical literature is so broad and maldefined that it's like and there's no treatment for it.

0:19:15.2 Dex: Well, I think it's still at a fairly early stage of anyone getting a grasp on what earth it is.

0:19:21.6 Cait: I'm not sure. I mean, we have a good 50 years of research on it. That's more than we have of cholesterol medication.

0:19:27.9 Dex: Well, I was gonna...

0:19:29.4 Cait: And we're using that every day.

0:19:31.1 Dex: As soon as you said that I was thinking of cholesterol medication and this sad American diet.

0:19:35.2 Cait: Yeah, right. We don't have... Western medicine is so good for so many things and really struggles with anything that doesn't fit a really particular mold. Which is another place where Chinese medicine, I think, is really helpful when it comes to burnout. Because in Chinese medicine, when stress affects your body over the long term, it is suspected that your symptoms will be systemic and that they will show up in the places where you are "constitutionally weakest". This means that if you had asthma as a child, you'll likely have trouble breathing when you're burnt out because the stress will affect your lungs the most because you are already weak there. If you had terrible diarrhoea for six months after visiting a foreign country and eating street food between the ages of six and six and a half, say, well, then when you're older and you're burning out, you will have gastrointestinal issues, because that is a place in your body that is lacking in integrity from a previous "injury".

0:20:45.9 Cait: So these things can be genetic, they can be brought on, it can be whiplash from a car accident. It can be any sort of thing. Or they can be this sort of... Like, genetic and constitutional sort of means the same thing. Chinese medicine, constitutional means that you are born into a body that is naturally stronger in some ways and weaker in others. It's not a judgment call. It's just that everybody's a little bit stronger at something and a little bit weaker at something else, and it just is the way it is. So you might find that your muscles are really affected and you have joint pain, or you might find that you have a lot of headaches, or you might find that you have gastrointestinal issues. You might find... And I think that when we see this vast array of symptoms, Western medicine is really reluctant to put it in the same bucket. Because that's not what Western medicine does currently.

0:21:39.3 Cait: It is going back in that direction. We have psychoneuroimmunology. Say that five times fast Cait. So we're looking at psychology, neurology, and the immune system altogether now. These things are happening. So we went to the extreme of only looking at the mitochondria, not even the cell. Let's go down to the mitochondria. And now we're going back the other way and we're saying, "Oh, these systems are connected." But we aren't there yet. We're just stepping back into this now as a medicine.

0:22:15.4 Dex: Well, I know. And you say that this literature and studies have been coming out for 50 years, the same as it has for statins, for the diet, for all of these things. And the ship is very slow to turn, is my observation.

0:22:30.0 Cait: Yeah. Yeah. Well, medicine is slow to turn in and of itself. It's even slower to turn because especially in the United States, the way the insurance companies are controlling what doctors are able to do, in a way. And so I think that there's a big fight in medicine now. To do everything evidence-based, and people are like evidence-based medicine. But if you look at the averages over hospitals across the United States, less than 50% of the procedures that are done are evidence-based. Less than 50%. But they're still saying... They're out shouting all the time that everything they do is evidence-based. And so I think that they're really trying to do the right thing. I don't believe that doctors and insurance companies and pharma are out to get us. I don't. I think that they are really trying to do the right thing, but they have been indoctrinated into a system that silos every single part of our bodies. And we're saying, but all the silos are empty. What do I do now? And they're like, goo.

0:23:39.4 Dex: Yeah. But if Chinese medicine isn't evidence-based, I don't know what is. Because evidence-based is a sticker that they have to put on their forehead before they're allowed to come out of their house.

0:23:51.3 Cait: Exactly. Yes.

0:23:54.3 Dex: And so they use it and use it and use it as some self-protective barrier.

0:23:57.0 Cait: It is.

0:24:00.2 Dex: And unfortunately, it's occluding the real information that would be more helpful for them to play with, I think. There's quite a lot of things in medicine, as you say, that I observe, and I just think, whoa, prove that one.

0:24:15.6 Cait: They don't know how anaesthesia works yet. They don't know how it works. The mechanism. They don't know we do surgery on people every day all over the world, and they do not understand the mechanism yet.

0:24:31.3 Dex: And I agree that's the basis of a lot of procedures that have been carried out for a really long time now.

0:24:36.1 Cait: And at the same time, we have gotten so many wild advances because of Western medicine. At the same time. So I think, again, I don't like to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don't want to leave pieces behind. I want to be able to include everything and continue pulling the strings together until it makes some sort of knot that makes sense. And I'm okay if we don't get there while I'm alive. I'm okay starting the work and seeing what people add to it over time because I think that this is a really big burnout just in and of itself. Disregarding all the different types of medicine and everything else that we could use and all of that. Just burnout in and of itself is such a web that if it was untangled in my lifetime, I would be surprised, I think.

0:25:42.0 Dex: Yes. And I would perhaps agree the ship is starting to turn, but at a cultural level, a lot of people are still in the mass confusion stage. Oh, we're not quite right. We don't know what is right. And I find that perplexing since the information is already in about how to work with burnout.

0:26:01.4 Cait: So far. It could get better.

0:26:02.9 Dex: Yeah, it could get better.

0:26:04.3 Cait: It could get better. We're going to continue to improve, I hope. I had somebody tagged me on LinkedIn recently and she said, "I just wish that we were talking about burnout more." And I almost hit my head against the table. I said, "Oh, my, I've talked about nothing else for seven years," but that doesn't mean that everybody is having this conversation all the time.

0:26:22.1 Dex: No. It feels like it.

0:26:25.1 Cait: Yeah, exactly.

0:26:26.3 Dex: Maybe it's just because we follow all the burnout people and listen to them.

0:26:29.8 Cait: Exactly.

0:26:31.7 Dex: I think of coming out of burnout as just a very predictable, step-by-step, reliable process. It's not, oh, no, what am I going to do with this person in burnout? That person in burnout? I do the same with every person and it always works. Just step, step, keep and take the bouncing ball.

0:26:48.1 Cait: I've never done the same thing with anybody.

0:26:51.6 Dex: You've never done. Really? 

0:26:54.0 Cait: The same things. Some similar pieces come up for most people, but the beginning where we begin, I don't know where we're supposed to begin until I'm talking to someone, because everybody's situation is different. I've had somebody that her first task was to buy a new nightstand and somebody else whose first task was to set a boundary with her boss. Very different things.

0:27:21.6 Dex: Right. I don't predict what the person is going to do, but the method remains the same. Maybe the method is fixed, but the way that the method can be applied in their situation changes, obviously with everybody's different experience and temperament and circumstances, all of that. But I never doubt that it's going to work. But I think at the beginning, particularly, it's about creating a little bit of breathing space so they've got a tiny bit of energy and hope to work with and then creating safety. Very, very important, which is what's lacking in this self-care element and the safety element need to come before anything else.

0:28:07.5 Cait: I agree with both of those. I absolutely agree with both of those. I think that there's a... Yeah, the elements remain the same. Safety, boundaries, learning to talk to your body or respond to your body. These are all elements that everybody has to learn. But what it looks like and will it definitely work? I'm not always convinced of that and I say that really honestly, as somebody who gets paid to do this on a day-to-day basis. I don't know that there's a thing that always works for everyone. Not even aspirin always works for everyone. Anti-nausea pills don't always work for everyone. Hypnotherapy doesn't always work for everyone. Acupuncture doesn't always work for everyone.

0:29:07.3 Cait: So I don't hold a belief that the things that I use are definitely gonna help every single person that I meet, which is why I like to have this referral system because sometimes I meet somebody and I think, you know what? There's something going on here that I'm not particularly good at, and somebody else should probably address it that's not me. The methods that they have might be the same, but your ability to hold space for certain people is different. I really hold a very strong belief that we must have a connection in order for this work to work. I think that's true for energy medicine. I think it's true for acupuncture. I think it's true for coaching. So there might be somebody that comes in that I could say what the steps would be, but I'm still the wrong person to help them. So if I started working with them, they might not get better the way that they could, because I'm wrong. I might be the wrong piece. You know? 

0:30:04.4 Dex: So important to say that. I agree. And I guess I've already applied the filter system before I apply the method. So I've already referred quite a large percentage of people who fall into any of those buckets for me, I might be the wrong person, et cetera, et cetera. Or they might have something that's outside my realm of knowledge or expertise. So I've already filtered all of those people and passed them.

0:30:27.5 Cait: Got it.

0:30:28.7 Dex: Found somebody who's more suitable, a little bit like you do. But it's good for people to hear those who are listening. Yeah, it's really like finding a good therapist. Sometimes you need to shop around for the one that's the best fit for you. Super important.

0:30:42.4 Cait: And so many of us do free calls, and we do free calls not just for you. We do free calls for ourselves. Because I don't want to be spending time and money with people that are not my people. It doesn't make sense for me or for them.

0:31:00.4 Dex: Exactly. Yeah. That's what I think. Don't waste their time.

0:31:06.2 Cait: No. God, no. Don't spend your money on me unless I'm the person for you.

0:31:09.7 Dex: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. For whatever reason. And sometimes it's just budgetary as well. Sometimes they're not in the time zone I'm in. Sometimes it's...

0:31:20.9 Cait: Totally, totally.

0:31:23.4 Dex: Yeah, whatever.

0:31:24.3 Cait: Exactly.

0:31:25.1 Dex: Yeah. I think so. Very important. Okay, so my next question really is, over the time that you've been working with Chinese medicine and now studying burnout, what has changed for you in your understanding of burnout? Do you discover new things all the time? 

0:31:43.6 Cait: Yes. I think the first thing that really hit me was the brain changes. That was back in 2017, and it hit me really hard, and I stayed with it for a long time. And now my idea of these brain changes is evolving because I just spent a couple of years reading neuroscience. And I think that one of the things I'm wondering now is sort of a chicken or an egg scenario. Like, we know that ACEs adverse childhood experiences, interfere with proper brain development. So are those of us who are measuring with smaller prefrontal cortices and enlarged amygdala, is that a result of burnout, or was that always there? And the only time we looked at it was when we were burnt out, so we just didn't know. And I'm not quite sure what the answer to this is, because there are not a lot of studies that have repetitive MRI measurements or functional MRI measurements for people's brain states, because that's expensive to do. And burnout was not so widespread before, so there's a smaller population of people to do it, which makes it a poor sample size, and it's a very expensive thing to do. So it's not done. So we don't know. We don't have this information.

0:33:01.9 Cait: And so six years ago, I was like, "Oh, my God, chronic stress does this to your brain." And now I'm like, "Wait, did your brain ever really develop properly?" And I'm not sure. I still think that there are definitely studies that show that chronic stress has those effects. But where's the cross-play between those two things? And what kind of protective elements might there be that would allow somebody to develop more fully later in life because they had the right relationship or a good therapist or a wonderful teacher or something like that? So there's all these questions in my mind right now about what's actually happening in the brain, and neuroscience is still very new. So this is another one of those things that if we find out in my lifetime, I would be thrilled, but I'm not 100% convinced that we will. That's something that's coming up.

0:33:55.4 Cait: I think another thing that's coming up is this sort of interplay between movement and life. When you're really burnt out and really physically exhausted, exercise is nearly impossible. You can barely move around. I could barely move around. I couldn't take a four-minute walk. But you need to move to live. Movement is life. There's this play in my mind of, have we gone so far into creating exercise routines that we've forgotten how to move? We're doing bicep curls, but we're not doing anything functional. And there are people now that focus on functional movement. I'm aware of that, and I think that it's really cool. But it's just this sort of like I had someone on my podcast that talked about posture and how that affects how you're feeling. So what would happen if we just focused on tai chi for like two years? 

0:35:04.3 Dex: Yeah, really.

0:35:08.1 Cait: These are all the questions that kind of sit and roll around in my mind all the time. I could go on for hours about the questions I have. I'm insanely curious about this.

0:35:20.2 Dex: Me too. I'm a voracious reader of stuff about neuroscience, burnout and all of that interplay between all of those things. But I think you mentioned there's no studies on this. In my personal experience, having aces as a kid, as I did, and having pretty full-on developmental issues, my personal experience of myself is there are parts of my brain that never took off, particularly the social side. Very truncated very early on, and it never bounced back, really. So I would also be really thrilled to see somebody do a study on that and find out what's going on for everybody else because, at the moment, I feel a bit unusual. Is it just me? Is my brain just dead in certain parts? 

0:36:13.2 Cait: No. It might be that your brain is doing that. It's definitely not only you, though. And then the question becomes, your brain is still plastic? So if you were surrounded for so I just said, let's do tai chi for two years, but let's make the situation different. Let's put you in a loving community who accepts you 100% for who you are every single day for the next two years. Would that change your brain patterns? Probably.

0:36:46.0 Dex: Well, that's actually the work that I'm doing with my coach right now, being in an environment of unconditional love and friendship and seeing how that moves anything because I think neuroplasticity still goes till you're dead right in, till.

0:37:04.1 Cait: Yeah. Keep us posted.

0:37:05.9 Dex: I'll keep you posted. All right, we're running out of time now, and I got to let you go, but anything else you would like to share today with us? Anything came up that I didn't ask you that you wish I had? 

0:37:19.0 Cait: No. I love this conversation all over. I think that the thing that I would leave people with is that no matter what your emotions are, whatever the gamut, resentment and anger to loneliness and anxiety and joy, all of them. Learn to befriend them somehow. Through therapy, through coaching, through inner work, whatever it is you choose, they will teach you how to get back to yourself. This practice of listening and talking to your emotions is part of the wisdom that I gained over the past X amount of years with burnout. It makes life so much easier to not just stuff everything down all the time. So give yourself the opportunity to make friends with the full rainbow.

0:38:18.5 Dex: Very sound advice. And also, there's a diamond buried in that shit somewhere. I found that practice quite difficult to make friends with some of the things that happened in my head. Yeah, it is revolutionary when you...

0:38:35.0 Cait: Not the thoughts. Notice I said the emotions, not the thoughts.

0:38:37.7 Dex: Oh, you don't think about the thoughts. Okay.

0:38:40.8 Cait: Making friends with the emotions will teach you things. The thoughts are not always yours. A lot of the thoughts that go through your head are things that were planted there by other people. That's not useful. That's not you.

0:38:58.4 Dex: It depends whether you weed them out or not.

0:39:00.5 Cait: Yeah, sure. You don't necessarily have to make friends with them, though. You can weed them out. Weeding them out is not making friends. Weeding them out is saying, this doesn't belong to me.

0:39:10.4 Dex: True. I kind of view it as the inner critic is the one that's coming out with all of this shit. And it's actually the inner critic that is well-intentioned. The words are not always useful.

0:39:20.3 Cait: Yeah, and the inner critic, it depends on where it comes from. Everybody has some sort of inner critic, but if you were in an abusive situation, then that inner critic has a voice that doesn't even belong to you at all. So f that guy.

0:39:44.4 Dex: Again, I think the same principle, but a slightly different interpretation to hear. It's been really wonderful to hear from you today. We're going to have to stop now, I'm sorry to say. But thank you so, so much for coming, and being here today, Cait. It really has been a great pleasure to chat with you.

0:40:01.4 Cait: Thanks for having me.

0:40:02.8 Dex: And everybody, see Cait's links in the show notes. Please go and investigate her works and listen to FRIED: The Burnout Podcast. And my friends, if you've enjoyed today's show, why wouldn't you? I'd love you to rate and review the podcast because that's how we extend the hand and help more people who are suffering from burnout. And if you yourself are in burnout, please visit dexrandall.com. You must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance, leadership, but most of all, enjoyment inside work and out. Thank you.

0:40:39.1 Dex: If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at  burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.

Difference between burnout prevention and recovery
Physiological changes during burnout
Different perspectives on burnout
Adverse childhood experiences and burnout
Importance of self-care and wisdom
The Definition of Burnout
Physiological Changes During Burnout
The Slow Turn of Medicine
Brain changes and burnout
Functional movement and burnout
Neuroplasticity and burnout recovery
Making Friends with Emotions
Weeding Out Thoughts
Recovering from Burnout