One of the most important practices that I use myself and that I ask my clients to use for emotional health is to allow feelings to come and go in a flow like a wave. Often, we have practiced “being fine” so well that we discount from our emotions and they can become hard to define. Using a feelings chart or the wheel of emotions can help us in naming what we are feeling. Give yourself space and time to release emotions. Two places that I use for emotional release are in the shower and driving by myself. Feelings of hurt, sadness, overwhelm, and anger are the feelings that I most need to have a space to release and both the shower and the car provide a place for me to yell, curse, cry, or shake my fist. Sometimes I find myself blocked, meaning that I have so ignored my emotional health that I am not able to connect to my feelings anymore.
As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kate Steiner.
Dr. Kate Steiner is a Burnout Recovery Coach and the Founder and CEO of LIFT Wellness Consulting, LLC. She works with clients to achieve wellness through recovery and self-care practices. She obtained a Master of Counseling degree from Idaho State University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Wyoming. Dr. Steiner has been researching burnout and wellness for 20 years. Through her research she developed a new sustainability and wellness model that is anchored in a self-reflection process. One of her favorite burnout recovery practices is dancing, if the music is on, she is moving and grooving.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/f4593ae7de411ea6994bcdac07e707ad
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Wyoming with two parents who worked in higher education but also in health care. I appreciate so much about my childhood in Wyoming, it is a naturally beautiful place, and we were able to spend so much time outdoors through camping, skiing, out on the lakes and rivers, and hiking. Wyoming also has fiercely independent people. That viewpoint has both supported and challenged me as I grew up. Like a lot of people, I did not recognize my own burnout, because I was working too hard “to pull myself up by the bootstraps.” At home we were a more collaborative family so that balanced out the independence streak some. Empathy was ever present in our home and I believe that this is why I have a high skill base in empathy and intuition. Emotions and feelings were not only okay but expected. My going into Counseling and Coaching as a profession now, it all makes sense to me. Growing up my sister and I used to play “college.” I struggled some in school growing up, but I loved college, and this started me on my career path in student affairs and college counseling. When I realized how quickly people experienced burnout and left the field, I knew that I needed to research the impact of wellness on burnout more.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was inspired by my fellow Fraternity and Sorority Advising and Student Affairs/Higher Education professionals. My career in burnout recovery coaching, started from my own experience with full on burnout. Looking back, I was one of the worst versions of myself. I felt short-tempered, always tired, anxious, and sad. I was doing everything I could to be “well.” But I wasn’t addressing or recovering from the events that were driving my burnout. I was in a high stress career field and as I looked around at my colleagues, I noticed that a lot of people didn’t stay in our field very long. In fact, most stayed in the field less than 5 years. At that time, I had been in the field for 8 and I decided that my dissertation topic needed to address the burnout in our field. What I discovered through my research was a new model and a better way to address my own burnout. I am now on a mission to get that message out to help as many people as possible. I was and continue to be inspired by people who are experiencing burnout. I want to help them know that there is another way.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My parents, they have been my cheerleaders all along the way. Supporting me even in what seemed like very impulsive decisions. Like deciding to spend a summer in Kenya providing service and taking a class toward my Ph.D. Now my partner has joined the cheer squad, he gives me a confidence boost as I work toward expanding my coaching and consultation business.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
This is only funny looking back at it now, but I had a defining moment of recognizing not only my own burnout but also how it was impacting other people around me. It was the beginning of the Fall semester and one of my hopes to achieve wellness was to try the Whole30 program. It was not going well. I was in my office and had not planned time for lunch and did not pack any snacks, so it was probably close to 2 pm. I finally left campus to pick up something to eat, while I was eating, I overheard my assistant director tell a student something like, “You might want to wait a moment, Kate will be a better person after she’s eaten.” She and I laugh about it now and looking back I know that she was right. I was not a good human to be around in that moment. I now joke that if I am quickly losing my temper or becoming irritated easily, that need to I ask myself if I need a snack or a nap. Because much like a toddler, I cannot be my best self if I am hungry or tired.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.” This is from the musical The Music Man. This was my senior quote in my high school yearbook, and it is still my favorite quote today. It speaks to living fully in the present moment and not putting off what can be accomplished today to another time. It reminds me to live my life, so I don’t have any empty yesterdays.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am on a mission to help people identify and recover from burnout. Most people do not realize that what they are feeling is from burnout until they reach their breaking point and end up leaving their job or career area. We do not acknowledge that the feelings of fatigue, overwhelm, irritation, that work is a burden, that work is unmanageable, or disinterest in work or activities all define burnout. There is a way to address those feelings and your career longevity well before reaching your breaking point. I am currently working on a book but am also taking new individual clients for burnout recovery coaching. Some new offerings for 2021 are two workshops for people to learn more about how to implement my model into their life: a 1-hour introduction course and a 4-hour deep dive workshop, both hosted over zoom. These programs are available on a monthly basis.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk a lot about cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
It is important to acknowledge that mental wellness is impacted by all other areas of wellness. You have to check in with your emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness areas to feel more balanced in your mental wellness. Starting your day with a self-reflection practice, can be a great way to set up positive mental wellness for your day. I journal every morning, after I’ve made coffee and before I turn on any other electronics, including my phone and definitely before I look at email or any social media. I include 3 things in my morning journal entry: Frist a mood check-in, reflecting on how I am feeling and any continued emotions from the day before. Second, I list 3–5 things that I am grateful for in my life. Finally, I list 3 or 4 commitments for the day. These can range from things I want to accomplish to moments for which, I want to be fully present. Another habit that can lead to optimum mental wellness is incorporating at least one self-care activity into your day. I am a big fan of the midday dance break. Dance or sing fully to one song before going back to your task list. Finally, just as you started your day with a self-reflection end your day with an unwinding ritual, that does not include screen time. Not only does avoiding screens help you sleep it also allows your mind to settle and slow down. I read every night in bed, my go to are fantasy or books on supernatural beings like witches or vampires. They allow me an escape and decompress from my day. One last thought on mental health, use counseling, coaching, or therapy as preventive care for your mental health. Working with a professional for regular mental health checkups is just as important as your yearly physical exam.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
I love practicing aerial yoga. It includes a strong sense of play and we often forget to play as adults. No matter what I’m feeling when I step into the studio I am smiling by the end of class. You just have to smile and laugh as you are swing around in a silk hammock and hanging upside down like a bat. Aerial yoga encourages play while you strengthen your body and relax your mind. I also use a number of grounding practices throughout my day. These can range from full on body scans, to deep breathing, to a five senses check-in. The body scans take a moment to check in with any part of my body that feels tense, I then visualize sending my breath to that body part and then I tense and relax those muscles. When I check in with my five senses, I use my present space to identify at least one thing that I can touch, hear, smell, taste, and see. I continue identifying sensations until I feel my heart rate slow and my breath deepen.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Physical wellness is generally viewed as exercise and good nutrition but also includes things like preventative care such as seeing your doctor for an annual check-up and blood work. Make sure to stay up to date on any pre-cancer screenings. When it comes to working out, sometimes getting started can be the hardest part. Whenever I have a workout scheduled, I commit to at least 10 minutes before I can stop if I’m just not feeling it. Rarely do I ever stop after 10 minutes and if I do, at least I have 10 more minutes of movement than I did before I started. When it comes to eating, know what and how much you are eating. If you are an intuitive eater, meaning you can recognize the difference between physical and emotional hunger that’s great. I am relearning what that means for me, so I still sometimes eat based on emotions even if I am not physically hungry. So, to help retrain my brain, I am tracking both what I eat and how I feel emotionally and physically while eating. Finally, the first thing that goes into my body every morning is a glass of water. There are a number of studies that show that drinking water first thing before consuming anything helps your brain, your gut, your immune system and your metabolism. For me, I just feel better and more alert when I start the day with 16 ounces of water.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
I think that we often approach food with an “all or nothing” mindset. Just look at the number of elimination diets that are out in our world. This is a hard mindset to continue for most humans, we are just too complex and so many things impact our decisions, like emotional eating for example. In regard to food, my research has shown that including foods that bring you joy is just as important for burnout recovery as eating a nutritious diet. This is of course in moderation, and as part of a mindful eating practice; but if macaroni and cheese brings you joy, like it does for me, then eat it. By incorporating a food or meal to bring you comfort, it will help you manage stress as a recovery practice. Again, the key is to be mindful while you eat your comfort foods. Enjoy and savor them, eat them slowly without distractions and pay attention to how full you feel.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
One of the most important practices that I use myself and that I ask my clients to use for emotional health is to allow feelings to come and go in a flow like a wave. Often, we have practiced “being fine” so well that we discount from our emotions and they can become hard to define. Using a feelings chart or the wheel of emotions can help us in naming what we are feeling. Give yourself space and time to release emotions. Two places that I use for emotional release are in the shower and driving by myself. Feelings of hurt, sadness, overwhelm, and anger are the feelings that I most need to have a space to release and both the shower and the car provide a place for me to yell, curse, cry, or shake my fist. Sometimes I find myself blocked, meaning that I have so ignored my emotional health that I am not able to connect to my feelings anymore. At those times, I implement what I refer to as the Hallmark process. I tune into the Hallmark channel and use their movies to jump start my emotions again. Their movies follow a formula, and it provides that right balance of drama, sadness, humor, heart break, and happily-ever after for me to feel a full range of emotions in just a couple of hours. Finally, stop answering the question “How are you?” with the word “fine.” Fine is not a feeling, stop and take a moment to identify an actual feeling and use that in your answer. You are not responsible for any explanation or follow-up to the person asking but you will find a better connection to your emotions by answering with, elated, hurt, sad, calm, or jubilant for example.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Just as I think play should be a part of our everyday life, the same goes for smiling. Which you will do if you incorporate play into your world. Have you ever started fake laughing only to find yourself in a giggle fit where you can’t stop? I have and it feels awesome. Smiling works the same way, by enacting those muscles in your face the emotions often follow. We also have an automatic response to smile when someone smiles at us and it works even if you are using the mirror. Smiling brings about emotional release, if your body needs tears to flow, they will if you start smiling.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Spiritual wellness is finding a connection with something bigger than yourself; it can be through religious services, nature, meditation, or prayer. I mentioned incorporating a morning self-reflection and journaling practice for mental wellness, but this practice also impacts emotional and spiritual wellness. This is especially true when you include offering gratitude as part of your self-reflection. Second, at least once a day spend a few minutes gazing at the horizon, I prefer doing this during either the sunrise or sunset, but if a rainbow appears, I will take advantage of that for my gazing moment. In that moment remind yourself that you are an important part of this world/universe and though it is bigger than you, you are connected to all parts of it. Then take a few deep breaths and end with closing your eyes for brief moment offering thanks for your space in this world. Finally, end your day with either prayer, meditation, yoga, or a mindfulness exercise. I use prayer, where I offer thanks and gratitude for my day, the people in my life, and anything else that is on my mind in that moment. I then offer prayer for others around me, anyone who I think could use more love and light in their life at that moment.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
What else signifies the greatness of the universe than nature? For me spiritual wellness has always come through nature, but more specifically through water. Being in water, watching a river or the ocean, listening to rain, all bring me a sense of peace that I haven’t been able to find in any other way. Even my time in the shower is idea opening and one of the places that I do my best thinking. Water is an important part to my own burnout recovery practices. I recently discovered paddleboard yoga and it has been an amazing wellness practice that includes the connection to nature. I am in awe of the beauty and abundance that nature provides to us.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The Burnout Recovery Movement — where we all have identified our expected burn events, have established daily wellness practices, and have as strong plan in place for recovery from burn events and burnout. When we are well, we are the best versions of ourselves and we interact differently with the world around us. We are calmer, kinder, more empathic, and more giving. Think of how amazing the world would be if each of us were almost always the best version of ourselves. I know that my purpose is to help as many people as possible find that space.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Brene Brown, I appreciate her contributions to my learning about authenticity, shame, and leadership. I would love to talk to her more about her process of grounded theory, as that is how I developed my model for sustainability and wellness to address burnout recovery. As a fellow researcher I think that we would have a fun conversation.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can follow me on Instagram @drkatesteiner or check out my website at www.liftwellnessconsulting.com; LIFT Wellness Consulting, LLC is also on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/liftwellnessconsulting Our workshops are available for you to register for now!
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.