Melyssa Allen of Inlightened: “Practice Positive Psychology”

Practice Positive Psychology: This is not referring to telling yourself, “Just stay positive!” Positive psychology practices aim to increase positive emotions, cognitions, and behaviors and enable one to better navigate the inevitable negative emotions that occur with life challenges. These evidence-based practices have demonstrated a reciprocal and reinforcing relationship with lifestyle medicine, suggesting that positive […]

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Practice Positive Psychology: This is not referring to telling yourself, “Just stay positive!” Positive psychology practices aim to increase positive emotions, cognitions, and behaviors and enable one to better navigate the inevitable negative emotions that occur with life challenges. These evidence-based practices have demonstrated a reciprocal and reinforcing relationship with lifestyle medicine, suggesting that positive health behaviors result in an upward spiral theory of change. Practicing positive psychology activities along with lifestyle medicine has been shown to serve as a protective factor against burnout and can help facilitate recovery from burnout.

Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melyssa Allen.

Melyssa Allen is a board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional who specializes with health behavior change through her roles as a fitness and behavioral health professional. Melyssa serves as an expert for Inlightened, Secretary for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s Fitness and Medicine member interest group, and behavioral/mental health specialist for the Lake Nona Performance Club’s Medical Advisory Council. In addition to operating her own lifestyle and wellness coaching company, Mind-Body-Thrive Lifestyle, Melyssa works full-time as a Clinician Well-Being Coach for Orlando Health.

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’ve always been a bit of a “multipassionate” person with my interests. I grew up taking ballet lessons, playing the violin, joining theater, playing volleyball — not all at the same time! I went through phases where I felt I had progressed enough in a skill to feel accomplished…and then I would go find my next challenge. While I didn’t become a savant in any of those activities, I learned valuable skills in each one that helped shape me into the person I am today and utilize these skills in various ways to live my purpose.

Through those experiences, one of the things I struggled with, as many other men and women have, was feeling self-conscious about my body. I was constantly comparing myself to what the media led me to believe was the picture of “health” and grew very critical of my body and appearance throughout my adolescence. What made it harder were the comments I received from other people about MY body — from my grandmother’s best friend (who was my ballet teacher) telling me to watch my weight since I was curvier than the other dancers…to my ex-boyfriend from high school telling me I would never become an animal trainer because I “wasn’t skinny enough.” I know these kinds of experiences are not unique to me, and that is one of the reasons I strive to help break toxic fitness culture norms, empower the people I work with to understand what true health means, and learn the best ways to set yourself up to achieve your goals.

I have also always been very determined to achieve big dreams! From the time I was four years old, I wanted to become a marine mammal trainer — fast forward about twenty years, and I was lucky enough to live out that childhood dream job for almost 5 years! I never would have accomplished that dream if it wasn’t for the unwavering and continuous support — emotional and oftentimes financial — from my wonderful parents! The way they have always encouraged me to pursue what makes me happiest is something that I am forever grateful for.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

What an evolution this has been over my lifetime…! Originally, I thought I would become a life-long animal trainer and work my way up the ladder to a curator position. A few years into my career as an animal trainer, I started volunteering at a local hospital’s pet therapy program when my dog, Buddy, became a certified therapy dog. That was when another world of possibilities began opening up for me. When Buddy and I would go around visiting with the patients and staff, it became such a rewarding experience for both of us. As much as we loved visiting the patients, it was even more fulfilling to see the staff light up when we started walking down the hall! That was when I first started playing around with the idea of “What would I want to do if I wasn’t an animal trainer anymore?”

I began looking into graduate psychology programs, thinking I would be pursuing some kind of animal cognition research given my experience with animal training and as a way to better understand the human-animal connection. As I was looking into the options I could pursue with a graduate degree in psychology, I started getting drawn towards the idea of becoming a therapist and what it would take to pursue a career using animal-assisted therapy. I was inspired by the idea of being able to help people find their own inner strength to make it through their toughest times and sharing Buddy’s presence to help comfort people through the therapeutic process. When I thought about sharing in that process of self-discovery with someone, it brought feelings of excitement, accomplishment, and honor. I was particularly drawn towards learning how to help the “helpers,” because I noticed these populations, like first responders and healthcare professionals, do wonderful work taking care of their patients — but often at the expense of their own well-being. I wanted to learn how to provide better care to these populations and equip them with valuable skills to cope with their demanding occupations and help them achieve optimal performance in their work.

I eventually found my path into Clinical Psychology, and discovered the field of lifestyle medicine along the way. Lifestyle medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention — including a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connection — as a primary modality, delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty, to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease (ACLM). This discipline was the perfect marriage between my passions for promoting physical and mental/emotional well-being. The foundation of lifestyle medicine uses a coach approach to help bridge the knowledge-behavior gap between knowing what a healthy lifestyle looks like and adopting sustainable behavior changes to reflect healthy living. It has been a remarkably rewarding experience for me to guide people to empower themselves and transform their health using lifestyle medicine. While I do miss my animal training career, the feeling of accomplishment in helping someone heal their bodies and hearts by overcoming obstacles and creating a life they are proud of is unmatched in my work as a lifestyle medicine professional. Some might argue it’s been a natural progression — an evolution in which I’m continuing to coach individuals into behaviors that are optimal for their respective lives.

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?

Dr. Diane Robinson, my clinical supervisor for my internship with the Integrative Medicine Department, helped me hone my skills into the clinician I am today and supported me through my own challenges in life as I went through my graduate school training. Her passion for working with cancer patients to enhance their quality of life is evident in the spark she gets when speaking about her work. While working with these patients during my internship, I experienced the loss of a good friend to breast cancer at the young age of 29. Dr. Robinson helped me process through how that loss would impact the work I do with clients and recognizing what my boundaries might need to be until I had my own time to heal — she didn’t make me feel embarrassed or ashamed for my vulnerability during that time, but helped me understand that this was part of our work as healers in healthcare, and my job was to figure out what my own needs were so that I can continue giving my best for our patients.

The work within Dr. Robinson’s department not only aligned with my interests in better understanding the mind-body connection, but she extended the same kind of warmth, empathy, and compassion towards her students as she did her patients. As I started to get more familiar with her team, I noticed how they were able to have fun as a team while still getting priority projects completed and how she conducted herself as a leader that ensured the well-being of her own team. She understood the importance of checking in with her team and truly cared about making sure that you were taking care of yourself first, so that you could provide the highest quality care for our patients.

Dr. Robinson modeled the kind of clinician, researcher, and leader I aspired to become — she fought to secure me a source of funding on a research project when my expected school funding fell through, she worked with our masters program faculty during the COVID pandemic to ensure I would get the clinical hours needed to graduate on time, and she continues to inspire me with her level of encouragement and words of wisdom regarding the imposter syndrome I experienced as I stepped into a new corporate role.

She supported me through new ideas, pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone, listened with empathy and understanding when I discovered I wanted to be a coach instead of a counselor, and believed in me when I often didn’t believe in myself. Dr. Robinson continues to share projects or opportunities aligned with my passions to help me continue to grow as a clinician, coach, and leader. I cannot fully express the gratitude that I have for the incredible impact that Dr. Diane Robinson has had on my life, but I have a hard time imagining that I would be where I am today without the integral role she has played in my story — and for that I am truly grateful for her and appreciative of everything she has done and continues to do for me over the past few years.

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?

I wouldn’t say it is the funniest mistake — but a pivotal moment for me in my career path was in one of my statistics classes for the doctoral program when I turned in a draft of an assignment instead of the final version while I was on a vacation. It became a domino effect, because that one homework assignment dropped my grade down to a C, even though I had an A and B+ on the midterm and final. My advisor told me that a “C” was considered a failing grade in the PhD program, and I felt completely numb. As someone who had always strived to excel in my academic career, that feeling of numbness was my sign telling me that something was wrong. That was the moment I realized I was experiencing burnout in that program and also when I realized I needed to make a dramatic shift in my life. I think the biggest lesson I took away from that experience was learning how to set my ego aside and do what was best for my well-being, which was difficult at the time but ultimately the best decision I could have made for myself.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs

When we feel like we need to have everything figured out, we may be putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. I can think of many times during my life where things seemed like they were spiraling out of control, only to learn that they were leading me exactly where I needed to be. A perfect example of this is when I decided to leave the PhD program, because I was leaving a funded position to enter a program where I’d be going into deeper debt for my education. But if I hadn’t gone into the doctoral program first, it might have taken me a lot longer to discover my passion for teaching group fitness classes! The masters program was on a satellite campus, and the doctoral program was on the main campus where the recreation and wellness center was located. I worked there as a lifeguard during my undergraduate career, which led me to connect with former coworkers and that’s how I began pursuing my fitness credentials. This quote has helped me get through numerous life transitions where I put my faith in following my intuition and let it be greater than the fear I felt of the unknown, trusting that it would all work out eventually…and so far, it has!

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 the most excited about writing my first workbook for guiding people to build a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. This workbook will use evidence-based approaches from lifestyle medicine, motivational interviewing, acceptance and commitment training, and positive psychology to guide readers through an “edutainment” (educational entertainment) journey! The thing about this project that makes me the most excited is imagining the ways it can reach globally to help guide people through ways to empower themselves to transform their health and happiness.

In future editions of this workbook, I plan to tailor it to different populations of people that I have worked with in my career — — such as healthcare professionals, veterinary professionals, and mental health providers. My hope is that this workbook can teach people ways to compassionately create positive changes in their lives to support their well-being through enjoyable and entertaining activities. I plan to share my own experiences and struggles with building a healthy lifestyle in a humorous and “tell-it-like-it-is” fashion to let readers know they are not alone in this and that there is hope for a lifestyle transformation built on positivity and compassion instead of shame and criticism. I will be self-publishing The Mind-Body-Thrive Lifestyle Workbook and plan to make it available for purchase on my website when it is ready to go in 2022!

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Positivity — When I was an Aquatic Research intern for Disney’s Animal Programs, helping with various research projects taking place at the aquarium at Epcot, part of our internship experience was attending a department meeting. In preparation for the meeting, we were required to read and take the assessment for Strength Finders. In the meeting, where the entire department for animal research from Epcot and Animal Kingdom was in attendance, I was the ONLY person who had Positivity and the “WOO — Winning Others Over” as my top strengths in a room of around 50 people! At the time, I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I didn’t have Analytical or Detail-Oriented as my top 5 strengths…but over time, I have realized that my positivity has helped me stay resilient during challenging times and I can find the “pearls among the storms.”
  • Energy — Whether it’s teaching a high intensity cardio kickboxing class or leading a guided meditation, I am able to match my energy to what is required of me in different situations. I can authentically be the spunky and upbeat cheerleader type for leading group fitness classes, but I can also be the compassionate and empathic counselor holding space for someone as they cry. Even though they require different amounts and types of energy, I am able to match what is the best fit in those settings in a way that isn’t forced or in-genuine.
  • Passion — There have been many times in my life when someone has told me I couldn’t do something and my passion would override any doubts that were thrown my way. My passions develop from a lived experience and give me a purpose behind what I do. In this chapter of my life, I am passionate about empowering people to learn how to take control of their health and well-being. We all have the power to transform our lives, but with the current structure of our healthcare systems there is a disconnect between healthcare professionals telling patients what they need to do to change their health status but not being able to teach patients how to do it. Typically, patients already know what they need to change and have every intention to make that change, but our minds can either work for or against us and there are many ways in which we hold ourselves back. This is where my own passion can be found: helping to bridge the intention-behavior gap for people who want to take control of their well-being.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of burnout?

Personally — after experiencing burnout myself, I became dedicated to advocating for a change in the way professionals were encouraged to “hustle and grind” their way through graduate school. This glorification of burnout among professional training programs has planted seeds of inadequacy, low self-worth, and intense competition among peers that leads to unsustainable habits among trainees. When I realized the toll that experiencing burnout took on me, I knew that I was not providing the kind of quality care for my clients that I expected of myself. When I became involved in programs that encouraged self-care and prioritizing personal well-being in order to perform optimally, I noted what was being done differently and how this approach impacted the program culture.

Professionally — In my role as a Clinician Well-Being Coach, we are seeing higher rates of burnout than ever before since the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing issues within healthcare systems. It was evident that our providers either didn’t know how or were not encouraged to practice professional self-care strategies to boost well-being and enhance resilience. The toxic cultures that have shaped our current healthcare professionals beckons the question: How are they supposed to help people become healthier, when they are not even healthy themselves? Over time this kind of “workaholic” approach can lead to burnout, which negatively impacts patient care. It’s happening all over the world and unfortunately there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to a multifaceted issue like burnout. In my current role, we are examining the impacts of burnout on the organization and working as a team to implement innovative solutions to this complex issue.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about beating burnout. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Burnout”? Can you explain?

Burnout is an occupational syndrome that has three main aspects:

· Depersonalization — increased cynicism and feeling disconnected from meaning or purpose in your work

· Emotional exhaustion — numbness or lack of emotion due to exhaustion

· Decreased sense of accomplishment or fulfillment — lost sense of fulfillment in your work

How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?

ENGAGEMENT. When you are engaged with what you are doing or in a state of “flow,” you are finding fulfillment and purpose in your work. A 2017 research article by Shanafelt and Noseworthy described engagement as the “positive antithesis” of burnout, where you experience “vigor, dedication, and absorption” in your work.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some sceptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?

Burnout stems from unmanaged chronic stress, which can have significant adverse effects on our health over time. As a personal account of how unmanaged stress can affect you, I experienced stress-induced Hand-Mouth-and-Foot Disease and Shingles within three months of each other. Our minds and bodies are interconnected, and if we are experiencing a state of burnout, it will not only affect our mental and emotional well-being, but also our physical well-being. There are numerous lifestyle-related diseases, like hypertension, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, which can be onset or exacerbated by chronic stress. Since burnout is the next level past chronic stress, the severity of the emotional and physical symptoms are often linked to health complications. If we try to “soldier on” through a state of burnout, either ignoring the signs or denying the symptoms, we could be making ourselves sicker in the long run.

Regarding the health and productivity of our society, we are living in a world that is more stressed and overworked than ever before. Burnout in any industry can lead to increased errors, higher turnover, and decreased client satisfaction scores. However, burnout in healthcare professionals comes at even higher costs, leading to higher rates of medical errors and lower quality of care for patients. Research is showing rising rates of burnout among healthcare professionals due to patient readmissions for the same issues, current structure of healthcare reimbursement, and absence of emphasizing professional self-care during training.

When employees are burnt out, they are practically “running on fumes”. Their energetic resources are depleted and their passion and motivation for what they do becomes blunted. Employees experiencing burnout begin going through the motions to do the bare minimum, which adversely impacts productivity. Additionally, the risk of negative health complications increases when burnout goes unmanaged in employees, which in turn leads to decreased productivity and output. While the upfront investment is initially higher, research has continued to show that organizations with the healthiest cultures prioritizing employee well-being financially outperform other organizations driven by bottom-line considerations.

From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?

The World Health Organization has included burnout as an occupational syndrome in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and defines it as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” However, I want to be clear in stating that experiencing burnout is not always due to an individual’s lack of trying to manage the stress they are under. While burnout is experienced on an individual level, it can originate from organizational and systemic issues. Lacking a clear mission statement, demonstrating actions or making decisions conflicting with organizational values, or hiring employees that are not aligned with a company’s mission are risk factors for higher rates of staff burnout. Burnout is a multifaceted issue attributed to a combination of factors such as personal life stressors, organizational structure, maladaptive coping, being disconnected from purpose in your work, and unsuccessfully managing occupational stress. There is only so much an individual can do to manage their stress among a system that doesn’t prioritize employee well-being and for organizations that do provide resources to prevent burnout, it is up to the individual to utilize what is available to them to protect themselves.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”. (Please share a story or an example for each.)

1. Adopt Healthy Habits: Lifestyle medicine has been suggested in recent research as an antidote to burnout in physicians. An easy way to remember the six pillars of lifestyle medicine include Eat Plants, Keep Moving, Sleep Well, Stress Less, Be Present, Love More. By establishing health promoting habits, you allow yourself to reduce your risk factors contributing to burnout. Being able to create habits that promote health of your mind and body enhances your resilience and optimizes your well-being. Practicing lifestyle medicine allows for adaptive coping strategies that promote a healthy and strong immune system, reduce risk for depression and anxiety, and could facilitate improved overall health status. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, lifestyle medicine gave me control over an aspect of my life when everything else felt out of my control. Was I perfect at using lifestyle medicine to cope through all of the COVID-19 pandemic? Absolutely not — there were times where I ate my emotions until the bottom of a bag of chips, had a few too many alcoholic drinks, numbed myself through watching TV instead of doing my regular meditation, and stayed on the couch instead of exercising. I can honestly admit those things helped me in the moment but made me feel worse past those few minutes of temporary relief. Typically, many of our coping mechanisms become habits — and they can either be helpful or unhelpful. Whether we realize it or not, we have a choice in how we cope through difficult times. Lifestyle medicine helps provide a buffer to burnout through creating habits that restore our energetic resources to combat emotional exhaustion.

2. Mindfulness: If we get stuck thinking about the past, that is what can lead to depression…if we get stuck thinking about a future that may or may not happen, that is what can lead to anxiety. Mindfulness is about helping us become aware when we have gotten stuck in those unhelpful spaces of thought and learning how to refocus our attention back to the present moment. The most common excuse I hear about not practicing mindfulness is “I don’t have time” or “I can’t sit still for that long.” Mindfulness doesn’t have to look like a 30-minute seated meditation, it can be taking time to enjoy your morning cup of coffee, eating without distraction so you can savor your food, practicing yoga out in nature, or even doing everyday tasks like showering or mowing the lawn. These activities fall under the category of informal mindfulness practices and involve bringing your full attention and awareness into what you are doing. These practices can be extremely helpful for learning how to incorporate mindful awareness throughout our day to help better manage stress. Formal mindfulness practices are like strength training for our brains! By sitting for a certain period of time (even just a couple of minutes!), we can help to patiently notice when we get distracted and then compassionately or playfully bring our attention back to the present moment by focusing on our breath, our body, or a mantra. By getting in our “mental fitness moments” through meditation and mindfulness, we can help strengthen our neural pathways through these repetitions of kind attention to our awareness.

3. Practice Positive Psychology: This is not referring to telling yourself, “Just stay positive!” Positive psychology practices aim to increase positive emotions, cognitions, and behaviors and enable one to better navigate the inevitable negative emotions that occur with life challenges. These evidence-based practices have demonstrated a reciprocal and reinforcing relationship with lifestyle medicine, suggesting that positive health behaviors result in an upward spiral theory of change. Practicing positive psychology activities along with lifestyle medicine has been shown to serve as a protective factor against burnout and can help facilitate recovery from burnout. Gratitude, acts of kindness, and the PERMA model (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment) are all practices of positive psychology that have been supported by research. Gratitude practices can consist of finding three specific things each day you are grateful for, writing a letter of gratitude to someone, or journaling in detail about something you are grateful for. Acts of kindness can look like a lot of different things, from holding a door open for someone to donating money to a meaningful cause. The PERMA model, developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, is a way to increase your positive experiences and find activities that align with the PERMA acronym to help you flourish.

4. Self-Compassion: We are often our own worst critics, but research has shown that shaming ourselves is no way to work through difficult times. By practicing self-compassion, we are able to learn how to support ourselves like we would a good friend or a loved one. These practices may feel foreign at times as we learn how to adjust to being kind to ourselves, but like anything else — practice makes progress. I recommend visiting Dr. Kristin Neff’s website to learn about the different self-compassion activities that you can try out, but my favorite practices are supportive touch, taking care of the caregiver, and loving-kindness meditation.

5. Creating a Self-Care Action Plan: “If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin. My final recommendation is to create a self-care action plan based on the information above. While we may have every intention to change based on the knowledge we have, creating a plan of how to take action is a crucial part in bridging the intention-behavior gap. I recommend starting with habits that you feel the most confident with changing first and making small changes that you can progressively increase over time. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timed) goals for yourself to help you build in your new positive health habits and understand that long-term change takes time. Your habits likely didn’t happen overnight, so don’t expect to break them overnight either! Create goals that are positively framed to focus on adding in healthier behaviors and incorporate all of the practices above to help create sustainable change. Decide on a healthy habit to build into your life, practice mindful awareness of your habits working against your positive health change, celebrate your successes along the way to encourage positive momentum, and show yourself compassion when you make a mistake and reflect patiently on how you can avoid the same mistake again in the future. Finally, write down your action plan on paper and keep it somewhere visible to remind yourself to proactively practice your self-care habits.

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?

Asking someone how you can best support them is a great place to start. When we care for someone, we may default into attempting to support them however we would like to be supported if we were in their situation. While we may be well-intentioned in this approach, it may make your loved one more irritable or cause more frustration. By asking how you can help support them, you are letting them feel heard and can provide support according to their needs. Don’t get discouraged if your loved one doesn’t know what they need in times of distress but asking lets them know you care about them and can help when they need it.

What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

Since burnout can result from feeling disconnected from a sense of purpose or lacking feelings of accomplishment, these are ways in which companies can begin to address issues of burnout. Stating a clear vision with actions reflective of the company’s mission statement can create a cohesive culture united by shared purpose. Acknowledgement and appreciation for employees to help them feel valued can address the perceived lack of accomplishment in the workplace. Actively listening to employee feedback and transparent communication from leadership will build trust with staff to let them know they are given an opportunity to feel heard. Employers must also look for ways to prioritize a company culture of well-being and encourage leadership to actively promote utilization of resources available to support their employees.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

People may be pushing through and holding strong during this time, but continuing to emphasize the importance of mental wellness will be crucial. As we transition out of survival mode and back into “normalcy,” what may happen is an overwhelming build up of everything we have experienced during a crisis hitting us all at once. It’s like imagining that you are an unopened can of soda being kicked around by life and then abruptly opened once things settle — the pressure that has built up will turn into a huge mess! However, if we can take our time allowing ourselves to process the crisis as we go through it — that is like carefully opening the can to release a little bit of the pressure slowly so it doesn’t explode all over the place.

When the COVID crisis is “over,” continue to offer resources to support employee mental wellness and normalize the use of such services. While mental well-being has taken on more of a priority during COVID-19, we need to continue prioritizing it even after the pandemic becomes a distant memory. The residual effects from this global crisis will continue to manifest over time due to the significant impacts, both psychologically and emotionally, that this situation has incurred. My hope is that as we move forward out of crisis management mode, discussions of mental well-being continue to be promoted in workplace settings. Strategies to implement a continued message of mental wellness could be monthly educational webinars, regular access to a coach or counselor to host groups or conduct individual sessions, and visible resources to encourage proactive care for mental wellness.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

The most common mistakes organizations make include thinking burnout is only an individual’s problem and when trying to solve problems for burnout on a systems level, trying to do the bare minimum or what is going to cost the least amount to fix it temporarily instead of investing in long-term solutions. Organizations should ask employees what their needs are, listen to and value feedback from employees, and provide transparent communication on the status of solutions to the identified issues.

The most common mistake individuals make are believing they are immune to burnout or denying when they are experiencing burnout. Many individuals may get frustrated or impatient with themselves as they try to recover, but since burnout doesn’t happen overnight, a complete recovery from burnout likely won’t happen immediately either. Many companies do provide resources to help support their employee well-being, but often employees are not aware of what is available to them or do not utilize the services provided. What individuals can do is build an honest awareness of their well-being status, acknowledge when they are experiencing burnout, and ask for professional help to guide them in learning what they can do to recover.

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.

I would inspire a global movement to make the healthy choice the easy choice — to transform the ways in which we live to promote our optimal health instead of feeding into disease. As someone who has lost multiple family and friends to lifestyle-related chronic diseases, I want to help create a future where upcoming generations can avoid the repetitive heartbreak of losing someone they care for due to a condition that potentially could have been prevented if our society operated from one of health promotion instead of disease management.

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 🙂

I would be beside myself if I could spend time with Simon Sinek, because his books have had such an influence on the way I think about my business and who I strive to become as a leader in my corporate role. It would be such an honor to have a conversation with him! In fact, his book Start with WHY is what led me to name my fitness business “Melyssa with a WHY,” so I would love to thank him in person for the way he has inspired me in my endeavors as both an entrepreneur and corporate professional. Now that I am in leadership, I tend to revisit his books Leaders Eat Last and The Infinite Game to remind myself that I am on the right path when I begin doubting my abilities as a leader and feeling the imposter syndrome creeping in. One of his quotes from Leaders Eat Last has stuck with me given the circumstances with COVID-19 and how I can remind myself to keep doing my best for our healthcare teams: “I know of no case study in history that describes an organization that has been managed out of a crisis. Every single one of them was led.”

His work is truly inspirational, and (I will admit…) I actually have meeting him someday on my vision board at home!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Mind-Body-Thrive Lifestyle, Lifestyle & Wellness Coaching



Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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