Reach out to your support system: We are social creatures! Community is so important when it comes to mental health. One of the many reminders I often share with my clients is that isolation breeds depression. I know that isn’t exactly what we are talking about, however chronic stress and burnout can eventually lead to more serious mental health issues.
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 Camille Tenerife.
Camille Tenerife is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA. She runs her own private practice and specializes in helping professional people of color navigate the stress of their careers. You can read more about Camille and her practice here.
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?
Of course! Well my favorite fact to share with anybody is that I lived in the Philippines for 12 years and moved to the US for my junior year of high school. Though I lived in the main city of Manila, I spent summers in my grandparents’ farm in the rural areas of the Philippines. I grew up raising chickens, goats, and cows, climbed mango trees, and swam in the tropical beaches of the island. It was so innocent! For fun, my cousins and I would catch frogs in buckets then let them go, take showers in the rain as kids, and use mud as Play-doh. It all sounds so silly and activities I would not do as an adult, but I think that is what makes it more special. We did not have the same care and worries we have as adults now.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I think that my personal life experiences truly influenced my career path. Well first off, I am a highly sensitive person! I joined the Earth Saver’s Club at age 8. I remember comforting trees that have been used to make tree houses in my grandparent’s farm. I know, strange! But I just felt for living things very easily.
In school, my friends always mentioned how sensitive I was. I used to see it as a flaw, but now I 100 percent see it as a strength. It’s what makes me good at my job. I think that more people should try and imagine what adversity and pain feel like for other people. I believe that more people can use kindness and empathy in this world.
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?
In a general sense, every single person who has supported me has helped me get here. But one person who influenced me the most is my grandpa. I kid you not, he was a walking encyclopedia! He knew everything and I was so proud to be his granddaughter. Looking back, the most valuable gift was that he believed in me. He was so proud of my accomplishments, no matter how small. His belief in me was so impactful and transcends to my adulthood… and I’m sure beyond.
One other influential person was my college counselor, Tracy. I consider her influential to me because she normalized everything that I was going through. I think part of the reason I was so burnt out in college was that I tried way too hard to get the perfect grade, to appear unflawed to my friends. Tracy helped me make realistic expectations. She was my first interaction with therapy, which influences the work I do today!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
An interesting or funny mistake isn’t coming to mind. However, I can think of recurring theme of being more passive in my positions and sometimes holding back my voice. When working with others, I have a tendency to golf my voice back at times because either I don’t want to appear disrespectful to my bosses, or I am afraid that what I have to share isn’t valuable. The takeaway is that I have to remind myself that I am just as worthy being in that workspace as anyone else! What I have to say is important. Worst case scenario it isn’t, then that means I just try again next time!
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
A quote that currently resonates is one by Anne Lammott. It goes “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
I am a natural empath and an HSP (highly sensitive person). I get very much overwhelmed with painful world events and sometimes really feel what my clients are going through. This quote about a lighthouse reminds me that I just have to be authentically me, and if I keep doing that, I will be able to positively impact the people around me. It’s such a simple, yet powerful quote.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Right now, I am just raising awareness around topics in mental health that are important to me! I’ve been a guest speaker on a few podcasts about racial trauma and of course, self-care/self-love! I am hoping to reach more people through writing blogs and sharing my knowledge in conversations with others.
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?
They would be dedication, kindness, and gratitude. I have always been a solution-focused and action-oriented person. I have a lot of people in my life who believe in me and so I was dedicated to making them proud. and a healthy level of self-esteem was a healthy by-product of that. It feels good to have a sense of achievement.
One of the early life lessons that my mom taught me was to treat everyone with kindness and respect, and also always remember who helped you along the way. These traits were also reinforced by my Filipino community. I have taken that with me and will continue to. As I got started with my career, I made sure to share my appreciation with teachers, mentors, and colleagues. I write “Thank You” cards after a class or a nice exchange with someone who has helped me.
Kindness and gratitude both apply to myself. It is very easy for me to start being my own biggest bully. Remembering to speak kindly to myself and also extend gratitude for what I have accomplished are factors that continue to propel me forward.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of burnout?
Being a licensed therapist, my focus is working with professionals in different realms. Since I am based in Los Angeles, I work with a lot of creatives and people in the entertainment industry. I also work with employees in tech companies, start-ups, baristas, and people in education. I see a wide range of clients! I’ve been faced with the topic of burnout in my career multiple times. In fact, it is something that is drilled to us in my graduate program at USC. My mentors and professors always highlighted self-care since the burnout rate of therapists is really high.
I’ve had my own personal experience of burnout, plus multiple trainings around this topic. It is so important!
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 a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion from constantly being exposed to stress and not having a break. Often times it appears as a lack of motivation to do work because we either feel overwhelmed, ineffective, or just simply unhappy. We may also feel a lack of interest or care in the work that we do.
How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?
The opposite of burnout feels like there is a balance between your work and personal life. You have strict boundaries with different channels around work so you feel refreshed. You trust the work that you are producing a great job and challenged enough at your workplace.
Sometimes people mistake being busy for burnout, but this is different. We can be busy and feel energized at the same time!
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some skeptics 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?
I can definitely see how other people may view burnout this way. We live in a society that praises high levels of productivity and overworking. Think about this; we often brag about pulling all-nighters working, praise people who are in the office so early and are the last to leave, or we put a lot of value on parents who have 2 jobs and takes care of the entire household and still works out. To clarify, I’m not saying that these are “bad” things. However, the praise we give each other reinforces our desire to do more and to keep it up with a smile on our faces.
Burnout can have long-term effects on our physical health as well. If we are constantly burnt out, we are chronically stressed. As you may or may not know, stress is one of the leading causes of health diseases in the US. If our bodies are constantly in this state, it will definitely take a toll on our health. It does not only affect your physical health, but also your mental health. Constantly being in a state of burnout can lead to depression and anxiety.
I often tell my clients: “It is our job to take care of ourselves in order to be able to take care of others.” Imagine this, if you are exhausted, you may be irritable, have a lack of patience, and have no energy to give. Remember that the world needs you! You have an important role that you play at work, in your personal life, and in society. It is vital for you to take care of yourself.
From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?
A few causes of burnout can be related to factors that are outside of our control. A few of the main causes for burnout could be having high expectations at work, unclear expectations, lack of recognition or validation, feeling disconnected from your work, family and friends, isolating, not having a sense of accomplishment or achievement, and a lack of pleasurable life experiences.
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.)
- Reach out to your support system.
We are social creatures! Community is so important when it comes to mental health. One of the many reminders I often share with my clients is that isolation breeds depression. I know that isn’t exactly what we are talking about, however chronic stress and burnout can eventually lead to more serious mental health issues.
2. Get creative!
Do something that exercises a different part of your brain! Life is not all about structure and productivity. Move that stressful energy out of your body through creativity. Remember, energy is neither created nor destroyed. So go create something beautiful with it!
3. Move your body.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. And no, it does not have to be taking 6 am classes at Barry’s or Orange Theory. This could also look like stretching in the morning or going for a walk around the neighborhood. Whatever your choice of movement is, just remember that the main purpose is for you to find more relief from stress, rather than weight loss, guilt, or other factors. When you let go of some of that pressure, it becomes easier to complete a task.
No idea where to start with this? Try taking an inventory of your needs. Once you have a clear idea, create nonnegotiable rules around them. We are in charge of taking care of ourselves and advocating for that. If that means you hide your computer under your bed by 5pm, so be it. You’ll find that it will benefit you in the long run.
5. Feel your feelings and cry it out.
We have to feel our way through our emotions, otherwise we stay stuck in those feelings. Many people believe that showing or expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. But I want to challenge that a bit. I think it is easy for employers to remember that people have heartbeats. We cannot expect ourselves or others to be unaffected by a stress. The more that you allow yourself to be in your emotions, the lighter you will become.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?
Listen and offer your support. Validate their feelings and try to understand what they are going through. One great way to do this is by asking more questions, getting curious. Remind yourself that you don’t have to fix their problem or know exactly what they’re going through. But through curiosity, you can show them that you care.
Show empathy. Not one’s burnout rate is better or worse than the others. They’re just different. So make sure you don’t minimize their emotions and experiences by comparing your own.
What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
There are different ways to help clients with burnout. One way to start is to simply check in. Get curious. Ask how your employees are doing, even if it feels as if everything is going well. Be genuine about it. You never know what people are going through.
Offer and encourage mental health days off. That’s a great way to acknowledge the reality that we all need breaks from work and have balance in our life. Boundaries are also very important. If you are in a position of leadership, people pay attention to your actions. Show that you have boundaries with work. Avoid sending an email at 10 pm. If you absolutely need to, maybe use the “schedule a time to send” option.
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?
It’s simple. Let’s all start talking about it and normalize mental health. Making mental health part of our conversation destigmatizes it. I think that it is also important to practice what I have mentioned earlier regarding leading by example. If we create a work environment that supports mental health, the hope is that our employees will follow suit.
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?
Oooh, I love this question! Let’s get some clarity on this. Self-care does not equal self-indulgence or an excuse to participate in behaviors that are outside of your value system. Something I also see quite often with clients is using self-care days to take care of all the chores and other personal matters. Now don’t get me wrong, those are important too. Just keep in mind to dedicate a portion of your days off to rest. Rest is also productive.
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 support the Black Lives Matter movement and Children’s Rights. I am an advocate of vulnerable and marginalized populations. I think that there is an uneven distribution of resources in this country and people who are in certain positions of privilege should do their best to advocate for equity.
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 🙂
Michelle Obama hands down. I had this answer before you even asked me this question. She is inspirational and relatable. She embodies both humor and grace. I would SO take her to happy hour!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can learn more about me on my website: www.diversifiedtherapyla.com or my Instagram @heal.with.camille
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!